little boy in bed with teddy bear

We used to think that bedwetting was a psychological problem that would get better with time and therefore children were not offered any treatment or support.  However, we now know that bedwetting is caused by physical problems. All children who wet the bed are unable to wake up when they need to wee during the night.

If they woke up they would go to the toilet.  The reason that they need a wee at night is either:

  • They are making too much wee at night. Most of us make less wee at night than we do during the day.  If a child is not able to reduce the amount of wee that they make at night, they will make so much that the bladder cannot hold it all
  • Or there is a problem with how the bladder is holding the wee. If the bladder is not as big as it should be, or is not able to hold the wee as well as it should and is emptying before it is full ,then the child will get wet.  Some children with this problem will also need to rush to the toilet in the day, or may get some damp pants during the day.

Neither of these problems is the child’s fault. They are not wetting the bed deliberately. They may have some dry nights when either they make less wee, or they may be dry when they have woken up or slept for a shorter amount of time.

We now know that children who wet the bed do get some awareness of the bladder being full, which can disturb their sleep, but not enough to wake them up. These children may be restless and do not sleep as well as children who are dry. They may be tired during the day.

Advantages of early treatment for bedwetting children who wet the bed are often very embarrassed about it, so much so that they may try and hide wet bedding and pyjamas.

They often do not want anyone outside the family to know and will avoid sleepovers and overnight trips with school, cubs or brownies because of it. Keeping wetting secret can be a source of worry for children. Feeling different and ashamed can cause problems with low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

Understanding the cause of the bedwetting and knowing they are not the only person who has this problem can be really helpful to children, as well as their families. Bedwetting is considered a medical problem from five years of age, but basic advice can help younger children as well. Successful treatment can result in better sleep, more social opportunities, less worry and improved self-esteem and self-confidence.

Your health care professional should also be able to give you advice or treatment, or refer you to someone who specialises in treating bedwetting.

There is more information on the following websites:

Bladder and Bowel UK have a confidential helpline at email: or telephone 0161 214 4591

World Bedwetting Day with the theme Time to Take Action is on 29th May and is designed to raise awareness of bedwetting.


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